Delhi Masterplan: Supreme Court rejects Centre’s plea seeking modification of order

The Supreme Court today rejected the plea of the Centre seeking modification of its order in which the DDA was asked to invite suggestions from the public on amending the Master Plan of Delhi-2021.

A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Navin Sinha did not accept the Centre’s submission that there was no need to take suggestions or objections of the public as DDA had undertaken this exercise earlier.

“We have not acceded to the request (of Centre and DDA) seeking modification of our order,” the bench said.

The supreme court had on May 15 accepted DDA’s action plan in which it had listed out steps including launching of an interactive website and a smart phone application to enable the public register their grievances regarding illegal constructions and given the authority 15 days time to make it operational.

The DDA had also proposed to fix responsibility on officials in cases of illegal construction activities in the national capital and violation of the master plan and building bye-laws.

In a five-page action plan, the DDA had said that it intends to check all ongoing and future unauthorised constructions in the city under the supervision of a special task force (STF) which was constituted on April 25 following an apex court order.

The apex court had on March 6 stayed any “further progress” in amending the Delhi Master Plan 2021 to protect unauthorised construction from the ongoing sealing drive in the national capital, sternly observing that this ‘dadagiri’ (bullying tactics) must stop.

The court had taken strong exception to the non-filing of affidavits by the Delhi government, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and municipal corporation of Delhi (MCDs) on whether an environment impact assessment was conducted before proposing amendments to the city’s Master Plan.

The Master Plan-2021 is a blueprint for urban planning and expansion in the metropolis to ensure overall development and the proposed amendments are aimed at bringing a uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes on par with residential plots.

FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.

Collegium: Further deliberation needed for elevating Judge to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court collegium has favoured “further deliberation” and “broad-based consideration” of names of Chief Justices of various high courts before sending its decision reiterating the elevation of Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph as a judge of the top court.

The resolution of the May 16 collegium meeting, uploaded on the supreme court website today, stated that there was need for deliberation on bringing the judges from the high courts, which are not represented, to the Supreme Court.

“Today (May 16), in the meeting of the Collegium, a unanimous view was expressed that there should be further deliberation and broad-based consideration of the names of the Chief Justices as well as Judges of the High Courts which are at present not represented in the Supreme Court.

“In view of the above, the meeting stands deferred to be held at the earliest,” the resolution said.

Official sources on May 16 had said that the Collegium comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and four senior most judges — Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, deliberated for more than an hour. This meeting was the second in five days.

Today was the last working day of Justice Chelameswar, who retires on June 22, as the court’s summer vacation starts tomorrow.

At its previous meeting on May 11, the Collegium had agreed in principle to reiterate its recommendation for elevating Justice Joseph as a judge of the supreme  court, almost three weeks after it was returned by the Centre, but could not decide on a date.

It had then adopted a resolution which also stated that there was a need for further discussion on the issue of sending the other names of judges to the Centre.

“The Chief Justice and other members of the Collegium have, on principle, unanimously agreed that the recommendation for appointment of Justice K M Joseph, Chief Justice, Uttarakhand High Court (Parent High Court: Kerala)as a Judge of the Supreme Court should be reiterated.

“However, the said reiteration should also be accompanied by the recommendation of the names of Chief Justices of High Courts for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court, for which detailed discussion is required,” the resolution of May 11 had said.

It had also decided to consider the names of other High Court Judges for elevation as Judges of the Supreme Court.

Official sources said those high court judges who are in the race to be elevated to the apex court are Chief Justice of Madras High Court Indira Banerjee, who is originally from the Calcutta HC, Gujarat HC Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy, whose parent cadre is Telangana and Andhra Pradesh HC, and Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, who is originally from Rajasthan HC.

The government had on April 26 returned the Collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph seeking its reconsideration, saying the proposal was not in accordance with the top court’s parameters and there was adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails. It had also questioned his seniority for elevation as a judge of the apex court.

The Collegium has recommended the name of Additional Judge Justice Ramchandra Singh Jhala to be appointed as a permanent judge of the Rajasthan High Court.

“… the Collegium resolves to recommend, for the present, that Justice Ramchandra Singh Jhala, Additional Judge be appointed as Permanent Judge of the Rajasthan High Court against one of the existing vacancies,” its resolution had said.

Collegium meet on Justice K M Joseph’s elevation to Supreme Court concludes

A crucial meeting of the Supreme Court Collegium was held today to discuss the issue of reconsidering the name of Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph for elevation to the apex court, after it was returned by the Centre.

Official sources said the members of the Collegium deliberated on the issue for nearly an hour. Details on the outcome of the meeting are awaited.

All members of the Collegium — Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, participated in the deliberations.

The decision to convene the meeting was taken late last evening by the CJI.

It is pertinent to mention that Justice J Chelameswar, the senior-most judge of the apex court, had on May 9 written a letter to the CJI urging him to convene the Collegium meet to urgently forward Justice Joseph’s name to the Centre.

The government had on April 26 returned the Collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph seeking its reconsideration, saying the proposal was not in accordance with the top court’s parameters and there was adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails. It had also questioned his seniority for elevation as a judge of the apex court.

According to an apex court official, Justice Chelameswar, in his letter sent to the CJI, had conveyed that he was reiterating his decision favaouring elevation of Justice Joseph as the judge of the top court as there was no change in the circumstances that had led the Collegium to recommend his name to the government on January 10.

It is also learnt that Justice Chelameswar, who retires on June 22, has responded to all the points raised in the communication to the CJI by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad expressing reservations on the elevation of Justice Joseph.

The meeting of the Collegium was expected to take place on May 9 but Justice Chelameswar was on leave.

Justice Kurian Joseph, during his visit to Kerala last week, had also reportedly made it clear that he was in favour of reiterating the recommendation of the Collegium on the issue concerning the Uttarakhand Chief Justice.

Relief for CJI as Cong MPs withdraw plea on impeachment from Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today came down heavily on the Archeological Survey of India for its failure to take appropriate steps to protect and preserve of the iconic Taj Mahal.

The apex court also expressed concern over the historic monument being infected by insects and asked the authorities, including ASI, what steps they have taken to prevent this.

“This situation would not have arisen if the ASI would have done its job. We are surprised with the way the ASI is defending itself. You (Centre) please consider if the ASI is needed there or not,” a bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, who was appearing for the Centre.

Nadkarni told the bench that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was considering the apex court’s suggestion to appoint international experts to look into the issue of protection and preservation of Taj Mahal.

The counsel for ASI told the court that the problem of insects was due to stagnation of the water of river Yamuna.

The top court has been monitoring developments in the area to protect the monument, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631. The mausoleum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The apex court had on May 1 expressed concern over the changing colour of the Taj Mahal apparently due to pollution and rapped the government saying “perhaps you don’t care”.

Observing that the monument had earlier turned yellow and was now going brownish and greenish in colour, the apex court had pulled up the authorities for not taking appropriate steps to preserve and protect it.

It had asked the Centre to take the assistance of experts from India and abroad to first assess the damage and take steps to restore the 17th century white marble mausoleum.

While perusing the recent pictures, shown by petitioner and environmentalist M C Mehta, the bench had observed, “this is now becoming the eighth wonder of the world”.

The petitioner had said the authorities have not complied with the apex court’s directions due to which the condition of the monument has become “horrible”.

He had said that besides change in its colour, there were patches on the marbles and recently a minaret had also fallen down.

The bench had observed that heads of countries and several dignitaries, including the Canadian Prime Minister, visiting India go to see the Taj and the court assumes that the authorities would want to preserve it.

The petitioner had told the bench that Taj Mahal was in “shambles”, Yamuna water in Agra has finished, the apex court orders were being flouted and encroachments and even industries have come up there.

He had also raked up the issue of security in Taj Mahal and said that CCTV cameras were not working and alleged that the “Government of India and the state government was not doing anything except making money from the monument”.

In March this year, the apex court had asked Uttar Pradesh government to place before it a draft of vision document on protection and preservation of the Taj and the environment in the Taj Trapezium Zone, which is an area of about 10,400 sq km spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in Rajasthan.

PIL in SC over CJI’s administrative authority as of roster

Senior advocate and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan today filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the master of roster and for laying down the principles and procedure to be followed in preparing it for allocation of cases.

He filed the PIL through his advocate and son Prashant Bhushan who wrote a letter to the supreme court’s secretary general stating that the matter should not be listed before a bench that includes the CJI.

In the letter, Prashant also said that it would be appropriate that the petition be listed before three senior-most judges of the top court for allocating it before an appropriate bench.

In the petition, CJI Dipak Misra has been named as one of the respondents along with the registrar of the Supreme Court.

The senior advocate has stated that the “master of roster” cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.

The petition said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in the chief justice alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion.”

It said that such an authority should be exercised by him in consultation with the senior judges of the Supreme Court in keeping with the various pronouncement of this court.

This petition assumes significance as on January 12 this year four senior most judges- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph- of the Supreme Court had called a press conference and said that the situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things have taken place.

The four judges had also raised the issue of allocation of important and sensitive PILs before junior judges of the supreme court.

CJI reinstates Justice M B Lokur as e-panel in-charge

CJI reinstates Justice M B Lokur as e-panel in-charge
CJI reinstates Justice M B Lokur as e-panel in-charge

Chief Justice J S Khehar has reversed his predecessor Justice T S Thakur’s decision and reinstated Justice M B Lokur as judge in-charge of Supreme Court’s e-panel.

The e-Committee set up in 2004 is a body constituted by the Government under the Supreme Court for policy formation on and implementation of Information and Communication Technology in the courts across the Country.

Chief Justice J S Khehar, who is the patron in-chief of the panel, reinstated Justice Lokur as judge in-charge of the committee on January 20, as per a Supreme Court notification.

Justice Lokur, who is the fifth senior most judge in apex court in the hierarchy, was dropped from the e-panel on November 9, 2016 by Justice Thakur and substituted by former Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court Sunil Ambwani.

No reason was cited for taking out Justice Lokur from heading the panel then.

Besides Justice Lokur, other members of the panel are Justice A M Khanwilkar, Justice D Y Chandrachud and two others. The invitee members include Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, Justice B D Ahmed of Delhi High Court among others.

In 2012, when Justice S H Kapadia was Chief Justice of India, Justice Lokur was made as judge in-charge of the panel for the first time.

The panel under Justice Lokur had successfully launched National Judicial Data Grid for district courts across the country and is now working on a similar grid for High Courts.

The grid gives data of pendency of cases (both civil and criminal) of district courts in every state. It gives details of cases pending over 10 years and five years, besides cases filed by senior citizens, women and other related data.

( Source – PTI )